2017 Spinnaker Cup: A Day Late But 2 Hours Earlier

By Eric Simonson,

The 2017 edition of the Spinnaker Cup moved back and moved forward. Instead of the normal Friday 11:00 AM start as been de rigueur for some time, the normal SFYC - MPYC R/C working in conjunction with the California Offshore Race Week, moved the start to 0900 Saturday in order to compress the entirety of the events involved. 38 boats and crews lined up on this cold, grey early morning start for the 88 nm downhill slide from San Francisco to Monterey. 

Now, an unofficial feeder race for Transpac, the Spinnaker Cup provides an early, first step option for NorCal boats to get to SoCal in advance of the Transpac. 18 of the boats entered in Saturday's Spinnaker Cup will continue south, competing the revamped Coastal Cup, now racing from Monterey to Santa Barbara Yacht Club. 

Mondays 204nm sprint from Monterey to Santa Barbara is a departure from its days of glory as well, but participation had dropped dramatically in recent years, and with the blessing of the original hosting club, Encinal YC, out of Alameda a compromise was achieved. Encinal now runs the start from Monterey with the assistance of Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club, and has members assisting at SBYC for the finish. From there, SBYC joins forces with San Diego Yacht Club for the SoCal 300, a 245nm jaunt from Santa Barbara to San Diego that includes 3 virtual scoring legs to braoden the strategy. It's a remarkable collaboration from 5 yacht clubs to merge efforts and compromise to create an offshore week that goes well beyond a week. For a full list of this year participants, please visit:

One of the boats participating in the Spinnaker Cup this year needs no introduction. Merlin, Bill Lee's magic carpet ride has been slowly returning to her former self after a long time absence from the West Coast sailing scene. Competing in the Transpac for her 40th Anniversary, with a bigger rig and heavier keel, her transformation is near completion. "This run down the coast was just a final tune up" indicates Chris Watts, one of many Santa Cruz sailors that have assisted in the project. "Our 1st race with her new main and kites, and we wanted to see how she lined up against some of the competition we'll see in the Transpac off wind". Chris notes that the main they have been using in the local Santa Cruz events was salvaged from the dumpster, a Buono Sera discard, brought back to life. 

Merlin's first offshore event was a success, inasmuch as her 1st to finish run of 09:34:59 just beating the Santa Cruz 70's, Edward Marez's Buona Sera and Joel Ronning's Catapult (former Pyewacket and Maverick) by 03:57 and 01:58 respectively on elapsed time yet surrendering all that and more in the PHRF offshore ratings used for the race. Merlin was built and optimized for downhill racing and this year's race offered a bit of that once the boats passed Davenport. "The newer 70's reach far better, but when we were able to square the pole back, she was in her sweet spot and we were to reel the 70's in and blast straight across Monterey Bay" Chris indicated. Merlin opted to stay in Santa Cruz and continue her refinements before the Transpac coming up in just a matter of weeks now.

Another Santa Cruz success story, the 50's and 52's continue to provide a steady as she goes continuum. With 5 boats on the line for yet another offshore event, the SC 50's lay testament to a sturdy fleet that has aged well. Michael Moradzadeh drank a bit of the "Fast is Fun" koolaid a few years back when he upgraded from his form Passport 40 Cheyenne, and purchased 
Oaxaca. Michael likes to tinker almost as much as he likes to sail, and his latest improvement includes some communication upgrades and hydraulic control relocation, now in front of the steering wheel, easily reached from cockpit crew. " It worked great, until it didn't" Michael confesses. "The good news was it was just a lack of hydraulic fluid in the right place at the right time. But being the guy that did the work, I knew what needed to be done". He adds "Just wished it wasn't right at the start". Mike fixed the problem and once resolved they were right back in the thick of things. With a heavy flood entering the Bay the 50's fleet had worked over to Yellow Bluff on the Marin side before sneaking past Lime Point and working across the river to seek relief on the south side. "It was pleasantly flat outside the Strait and we rounded Seal Rock much closer than years past and were able to follow the 40' line down to Montara" Michael indicates. "Much calmer than forecasted so our biggest concern was the crab pots being that close to shore". A tight reach in the low to mid teens gave way to a little more aft wind after Pillar Point and then the expected increase to high teens and lower twenty's after Ano Nuevo. With the heavily optimized Horizon leading the 50's, they all shot tight to the coast where the pressure was greatest and then had a beeline straight across Monterey Bay to the finish. All 5 boats would arrive within 1/2 hour of each other and Oaxaca would take 2nd in division on corrected time.

Oaxaca and crew (including Liz Baylis AND Dee Caffari) will continue on the Coastal Cup along with Dave MacEwen's SC 52 Lucky Duck, John Shulze's SC 50 Horizon and Bill Helvestine's SC 50 Deception. There are five SC 50 - 52's signed up for the SoCal 300 and ten SC 50 - 52's registered for the Transpac!

In other divisions, Howard Turners, J/111 Symmetry, aided by a generous dose of Crum brothers took Div E honors, correcting out ahead of a very fast Melges 32 runs by Rufus Sjoberg on Rufless, and Daniel Thielman's Kuai. Laurence Baskin's Express 37 Bullet would win Div F on elapsed time and corrected time, however Karl Robrock's Moore 24 Snafu was just 3:52 off the pace on corrected time. Snafu will have her work cut out for her in the Coastal Cup, as she will be with the big planning boats, division wise, and forecast looks optimized for Moore 24 giant slayer conditions. Rodney Pimintel's Cal 40 Azure took the 3 boat Division G on corrected time, 25:56 ahead of Nicholas Sands Sabre 402, EscapadeChim Chim won the Cruising Cat Division. Also of note, just two DNF's in this year's Spinnaker Cup Rebecca Hinden's Express 27 Bombora had a boat to bottom incident just outside the gate and retired early and Chris Cartwright's J/88 Ventus retired late in the game and motored to the finish.